Trail of Betrayal: Inside the files: Boy Scouts' secrets gave predators a pass

Our exclusive look into 30,000 documents

Campfire embers grew cold in the dark. The boys were in their tents, in sleeping bags or under blankets, when the predators came out.

The men who crept among the Boy Scouts weren't stalking game. They sought sexual gratification.

Many of their activities were recorded in confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America. Along with wrenching details of sexual abuse, the files -- parts of which have surfaced recently through lawsuits -- illustrate how the Boy Scouts frequently failed to protect youths within the organization and beyond. Too often, allegations were treated as Scout secrets and not referred to law enforcement.

One failure involved John P.Treder, a scoutmaster accused of molesting a boy in his troop while at a southeastern Wisconsin Scout camp on a July night in 1968. But the details of his misconduct would remain a Scout secret for more than two decades, surfacing only in 1991. The time span encompasses that of a set of nearly 1,900 files reviewed by a Scripps investigative team.

Treder lay on the boy's bunk and "touched me between my legs several times and again asked me if I liked it. I said 'no,'"the boy wrote in a statement to Scout officials a week later. "At first I trusted him because I liked him. Then he said if he could kiss me again, he would go, so I let "him."

That incident got Treder removed from Scouting, but there was no report to police.Treder later wrote to the Scout executive who handled his removal, thanking him for "keeping everything in confidence."

Treder went on to oversee altar boys' training at a Catholic Church in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, where he was charged with assaulting a 10-year-old in 1989. Only then did police learn of the earlier incident with Scouts.

Scores of other cases noted in these so-called "perversion files" show how leaders who were pushed out of Scouts for sexual offenses, but not reported to police, went on to strike again.

On paper, Scouting has one of the youth-service field's toughest systems for keeping child molesters out of its million-strong adult leadership corps and away from its 2.7 million youth members. Within a decade of its 1910 founding, the organization started its "ineligible volunteer files" on individuals it deemed unfit to participate in Scouting, usually for suspicions or evidence of sexual misconduct with children. Scout officials say the files -- containing assorted Scout correspondence, handwritten notes, legal documents, press clippings and letters from parents and Scouts -- blocked or removed many pedophiles from leadership posts.

But the Scripps investigative team's review of 1,881 such files from 1970 to 1991, ordered released by a California court and shared among an informal network of attorneys representing abuse victims, reveals the Boy Scouts in hundreds of cases failed to report suspicious behavior to law-enforcement authorities. In scores of cases, individuals suspected of child molestation were allowed to remain on probation or to resign quietly, leaving youths at risk in and outside of Scouting. In some cases, protecting the reputation of Scouting took precedence over protecting its young charges, records show. The files suggest at least 2,000 Scouts were victimized.

Scripps' review includes many of the same files publicly released Oct. 18, under court order, by an Oregon law firm that got them as evidence against the Boy Scouts.

Despite the Boy Scouts' tightened screening in recent years, the Scripps team also found evidence in court records that at least 13 Scout leaders abused Scouts within the last decade.

The files Scripps reviewed indicate:

-- Scouts or their parents brought claims of sexual abuse directly to senior Scouting officials 416 times. Officials referred just 117 -- or 28 percent -- to law-enforcement authorities.

-- Scout officials allowed at least 146 individuals suspected of sexual misconduct to resign quietly. Many files contained official Scout correspondence with this standard language: "Please also understand that this decision and the reasons for it will be maintained as confidential.

-- Thirty-eight Scout leaders accused of sexual molestation were placed on "probation," meaning they could continue working with kids as long as there was no further misconduct or while getting therapy. (The Boy Scouts stopped offering probation in 1998.)

Scout officials "allowed these people to go on to molest other children," said Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has represented more than 1,000 victims of child sex abuse and who shared the files with Scripps.

The Boy Scouts' national president, Wayne Perry, acknowledged the files show his organization "did not maintain the standards that, certainly, we (have) today. And we fell short," he said in an interview with Scripps. "... And for that -- for any of those victims and their families -- we are profoundly sorry."

Boy Scout officials have pledged to review all files from 1965 on to ensure that any suspicions

Campfire embers grew cold in the dark. The boys were in their tents, in sleeping bags or under blankets, when the predators came out.

The men who crept among the Boy Scouts weren't stalking game. They sought sexual gratification.

Many of their activities were recorded in confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America. Along with wrenching details of sexual abuse, the files -- parts of which have surfaced recently through lawsuits -- illustrate how the Boy Scouts frequently failed to protect youths within the organization and beyond. Too often, allegations were treated as Scout secrets and not referred to law enforcement.

One failure involved John P.Treder, a scoutmaster accused of molesting a boy in his troop while at a southeastern Wisconsin Scout camp on a July night in 1968. But the details of his misconduct would remain a Scout secret for more than two decades, surfacing only in 1991. The time span encompasses that of a set of nearly 1,900 files reviewed by a Scripps investigative team.

Treder lay on the boy's bunk and "touched me between my legs several times and again asked me if I liked it. I said 'no,'"the boy wrote in a statement to Scout officials a week later. "At first I trusted him because I liked him. Then he said if he could kiss me again, he would go, so I let "him."

That incident got Treder removed from Scouting, but there was no report to police.Treder later wrote to the Scout executive who handled his removal, thanking him for "keeping everything in confidence."

Treder went on to oversee altar boys' training at a Catholic Church in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, where he was charged with assaulting a 10-year-old in 1989. Only then did police learn of the earlier incident with Scouts.

Scores of other cases noted in these so-called "perversion files" show how leaders who were pushed out of Scouts for sexual offenses, but not reported to police, went on to strike again.

On paper, Scouting has one of the youth-service field's toughest systems for keeping child molesters out of its million-strong adult leadership corps and away from its 2.7 million youth members. Within a decade of its 1910 founding, the organization started its "ineligible volunteer files" on individuals it deemed unfit to participate in Scouting, usually for suspicions or evidence of sexual misconduct with children. Scout officials say the files -- containing assorted Scout correspondence, handwritten notes, legal documents, press clippings and letters from parents and Scouts -- blocked or removed many pedophiles from leadership posts.

But the Scripps investigative team's review of 1,881 such files from 1970 to 1991, ordered released by a California court and shared among an informal network of attorneys representing abuse victims, reveals the Boy Scouts in hundreds of cases failed to report suspicious behavior to law-enforcement authorities. In scores of cases, individuals suspected of child molestation were allowed to remain on probation or to resign quietly, leaving youths at risk in and outside of Scouting. In some cases, protecting the reputation of Scouting took precedence over protecting its young charges, records show. The files suggest at least 2,000 Scouts were victimized.

Scripps' review includes many of the same files publicly released Oct. 18, under court order, by an Oregon law firm that got them as evidence against the Boy Scouts.

Despite the Boy Scouts' tightened screening in recent years, the Scripps team also found evidence in court records that at least 13 Scout leaders abused Scouts within the last decade.

The files Scripps reviewed indicate:

-- Scouts or their parents brought claims of sexual abuse directly to senior Scouting officials 416 times. Officials referred just 117 -- or 28 percent -- to law-enforcement authorities.

-- Scout officials allowed at least 146 individuals suspected of sexual misconduct to resign quietly. Many files contained official Scout correspondence with this standard language: "Please also understand that this decision and the reasons for it will be maintained as confidential.

-- Thirty-eight Scout leaders accused of sexual molestation were placed on "probation," meaning they could continue working with kids as long as there was no further misconduct or while getting therapy. (The Boy Scouts stopped offering probation in 1998.)

Scout officials "allowed these people to go on to molest other children," said Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has represented more than 1,000 victims of child sex abuse and who shared the files with Scripps.

The Boy Scouts' national president, Wayne Perry, acknowledged the files show his organization "did not maintain the standards that, certainly, we (have) today. And we fell short," he said in an interview with Scripps. "... And for that -- for any of those victims and their families -- we are profoundly sorry."

Boy Scout officials have pledged to review all files from 1965 on to ensure that any suspicions

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